Sand beach crews cleaning up storm mess

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Harrison County workers today began cleaning 26 miles of sand beach, removing all the debris washed ashore by Tropical Storm Lee's weekend visit.

It was perfect weather for the beach clean-up project, which will take about three weeks to complete.

Along with removing sea grass and marine litter that washed ashore, crews are also putting the sand back where it belongs.

Beach cleaners rake and sift the sand just east of Gulfport Harbor, removing all the debris Tropical Storm Lee deposited.

A bit farther west, heavy equipment removes large limbs from the sand and loads it onto county dump trucks.

What took Lee just a long holiday weekend to blow ashore will take sand beach crews a lot longer to restore.

"We're still looking at the erosion. The debris wasn't bad. We should be able to take care of the whole situation in three weeks time. The big stuff we're picking up with our heavy equipment and hauling it off. The other stuff will be done with the beach cleaners," said Sand Beach Director, Chuck Loftis.

Tropical Storm Lee was, for the most part, a blustery nuisance.

The county and cities will have to pay the cost for restoring the beach or fixing any roads or bridges impacted by the weekend weather.

"It's not an astronomical expense, but there's always an expense incurred. And we're just trying to keep within that budget we've got as we move forward. Right now, this storm doesn't look like, by any means, meeting any of the thresholds. So everything is on the city and the county," said Harrison County Emergency Operation Center Director Rupert Lacy.

Areas of the beach with dunes and vegetation or fencing helped limit erosion and provided a debris barrier.

"Dunes helped tremendously in keeping the material from coming north of the dunes. We did lose some of the sand fencing, but we're looking at that on our damage assessment now," Loftis said.

Along with removing debris, a part of the beach restoration project is getting the sand back where it belongs.

All of this sand, removed from Highway 90 by Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT)crews, will be recycled and placed back along the shoreline.

"That material is pretty clean, so we are reclaiming it and putting it back out on the beach," said Loftis.

MDOT is still working to remove all the sand from Highway 90. That portion of the storm clean-up should be finished in just a few days.

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